This year I have joined the Suivi Temporel des Rhopalocères de France (STERF or, in plain English, the French Butterfly Atlas project). Some of you (my family in particular) will be familiar with 'bird atlasing'. Surveying for butterflies is based on the same principles.
The aim of the project is to find out what species occur where and whether populations are increasing, decreasing or stable. Volunteers and professionals all over the country gather data from (April) May to August (September) and send it in to the French National Natural History Museum biodiversity recording unit. They do the number crunching and produce graphs showing the population trends and distribution maps. The data also feeds in to the annual European report on the state of grassland butterflies and the International Red Lists of Threatened Species. Butterflies make good indicator species because they are particularly sensitive to habitat change. They are also easy to survey because they are generally easy to identify without capturing.
one of the target grassland species.
If you are interested in monitoring butterflies and can commit to about an hour a month between May and September, please contact STERF. Last year there were only about 120 surveyors, checking 660 transects. Some departements don't have a single surveyor yet. You don't have to live in France (or even speak fluent French) but if you have a holiday house here and visit once a month during the summer you could participate. If you have any questions don't hesitate to get in touch with me or with STERF. And if you see me wandering about the Chaumussay area or the Parc de Boussay with a clipboard, you will know what I'm up to.